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THE NFC CENTRAL
William F. Reed
December 11, 1995
'Tis the Season
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December 11, 1995

The Nfc Central

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NAME

TEAM

CATCHES

YARDS

AVG.

TDS

HERMAN MOORE

LIONS

87

1,234

14.2

11

BRETT PERRIMAN

LIONS

87

1,142

13.1

8

ROBERT BROOKS

PACKERS

77

1,120

14.5

10

CRIS CARTER

VIKINGS

95

1,080

11.4

14

JEFF GRAHAM

BEARS

63

1,016

16.1

3

JAKE REED

VIKINGS

60

875

14.6

6

CURTIS CONWAY

BEARS

46

872

19.0

12

Statistics are through Sunday's games.

'Tis the Season

If this is December, then that must be Minnesota making a belated charge for a playoff spot. In 1993 Team Jingle Bells sent season's greetings to its fans with a 4-1 December that led to a wild-card berth. Last year the Vikings used a 3-1 December, including a season-ending 21-14 win over the 49ers, to put a nice bow on a division title. Now here they are again, making spirits bright in the Twin Cities by playing their best ball of the season.

Sunday's 31-17 trouncing of the unswash-buckling Buccaneers in the Metrodome pushed the Vikings to 7-6, with Ebeneezer Scrooge's team, the Browns, scheduled for a Saturday visit. The Vikings trail the Packers by two games and close with games at San Francisco and Cincinnati, but coach Dennis Green is undismayed. "December always has been good to us," says Green, who is 10-4 in the Christmas month since coming to Minnesota in 1992. "But this year we're going to have to run the table."

They might just do it. The Vikings, who struggled offensively in September and October, have scored at least 30 points in four consecutive games. Against the hapless Bucs, quarterback Warren Moon and wideout Cris Carter continued their assault on the record books, connecting on touchdown passes of 27 and 60 yards. The two strikes gave Moon 26 TD passes for the season, tying the club record set by Tommy Kramer in 1981, and allowed Carter to extend his team record for scoring catches in a season to 14.

Anybody who thinks the 39-year-old Moon is washed up should consider his numbers for the last five games: 120 completions in 193 attempts for 1,573 yards, with 16 touchdown passes and four interceptions. Even more impressive, Moon connected on 20 of 32 passes against the Bucs despite playing with an injured thumb on his throwing hand.

This time the passing game was augmented by a strong running game. Amp Lee, starting in place of the injured Robert Smith, got the Vikings out of the blocks with a 66-yard first-quarter scoring gallop. Lee finished with 90 yards on eight carries, and Scottie Graham contributed 98 yards on 16 attempts. "When our running game is working," Moon said, "people can't just sit back and wait for us to pass. We felt we had to be more physical against Tampa Bay. If we can run the ball, our passing game will take care of itself."

Silver Linings

For the Bucs the good news, such as it is, is that they finally threw a touchdown pass, ending an 0-for-281 drought that dated back to a Sept. 24 game against the Redskins. Don't laugh. When you're going as badly as Tampa Bay has gone of late, you are reduced to grasping at straws, which is precisely what coach Sam Wyche did afterward. "You've got to find something to start from the next week," said Wyche. "We had several nice, deep throws down the field, so that's something."

The streak-busting touchdown pass, which came with Tampa Bay on the short end of a 31-10 score early in the fourth quarter, was a 38-yarder from backup Casey Weldon to wideout Alvin Harper. It was the first scoring pass of Weldon's four-year NFL career. He was in the game only because starter Trent Dilfer had been ejected for scuffling with Viking defensive tackle John Randle midway through the third quarter with the Bucs trailing 28-7.

At his postgame media conference, Dilfer smiled sheepishly and asked, "Has that [an ejection] ever happened before to an NFL quarterback?" Good question. Even the NFL public relations office didn't have an answer to that one.

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